Three years after Alan Mulally vowed to make Lincoln a world-class brand again, the Ford division surged into second place in the J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study.
Lincoln's gain was outdone only by Porsche, which jumped from 11th to 1st, validating many of the refinements Porsche designers and engineers started putting into the 911 and Boxster models starting in 2007.
For both brands, the improvements are proof buyers have noticed the effort that's gone into recent models.
Just over 50,000 people participated in the J.D. Power study, which measures problems reported in 3-year-old models.
In many ways, this survey is a better gauge of whether an automaker has really done a good job.
Sure the J.D. Power initial quality survey is a good snapshot of how brands and models are received and performing right after they come out. But a truer measure is how they are doing after three years of use. By then many of the problems people have with their cars or trucks are starting to rear their ugly heads.
The top rated brands this year
#3 Buick and Lexus tie
Speaking of Toyota , this study was done before the company's recall problems exploded into a major crisis last fall. It will be interesting to see what impact (if any) those recalls will have in next year's results or if Toyota owners will still report as few problems as they did in this survey. And it should be noted that while Toyota slipped from fourth to sixth place among brands, owners in this year's study actually reported fewer problems per 100 vehicles.
And that's the overall story that should not be lost in the J.D. Power report.
Overall, the quality of the cars and trucks we're driving is improving. Even the bottom five brands were deemed to have fewer trouble spots than the bottom five from '09.
The bottom five brands out of 36 rated
#36 Land Rover
One final thought.
Lincoln's steadily improving quality and relevance among upscale brands is a credit to Derrick Kuzak, the head of Ford's global product development. I remember talking with the Ford executive three years ago about his plans for Lincoln. On paper they sounded great, but I was among the many who were skeptical he could make Lincoln matter.
Three years later put me at the front of the line for those covering the auto industry that should eat some crow. Kuzak and his team of designers have refined Lincoln with a deft touch that will convince those looking for an upscale car that the MKZ and MKT are worth checking out.
Click on Ticker to Track Corporate News:
- Ford Motor
- Toyota Motor
- Honda Motor
Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com